By Geoff Hoppe
October 22, 2015 - 00:08
Directed by: John W. Holt
Produced by: Christopher Bower
Running Time: 11 minutes
Release Date: 2010
Halloween screams "low budget" more than any other major North American holiday. It can be expensive, sure, especially if you want to go all out. But on what other holiday can elbow grease and ingenuity constitute so much of your effort? Christmas? Nope. Thanksgiving? Turkeys ain't cheap. Nor is the time and effort spent to remove a square foot of pie-fat from your hinder. July 4th? Fireworks, and the attendant trips to the burn ward, can take a pretty penny out of your wallet. Valentine's? Candy suggestion hearts are cheap. Concert tickets, flowers, dinner, candy, jewelry, and soul-decaying regret, however, aren’t.
But Halloween? If H.P. Lovecraft was right that fear "is the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind," then an emotion so primal shouldn't require dependence on spectacle, or the cash nexus. Why, just break into a friend's home, hide in their closet, and leap out with a hearty "BOO!" I guarantee they'll thank you for the authenticity of their reaction! Or they'll stab you and call the police. But even that’s in the spirit. That's the low budget beauty of Halloween!
On second thought, maybe nothing low budget is good.
In this spirit, I've decided to take to the bounty that is youtube for my fright fix, because the dollars in my bank account are dying with the Swiss-train-schedule regularity of horny victims in a Reagan-era slasher in this Obama-era economy. Thus, here’s a review of “The Hunt,” an old 2010 found footage horror short film uploaded to youtube back in 2011.
Like I said. I’m strapped for cash.
The best part of this movie is the opening. Found footage works when it successfully immerses the viewer. This opening immerses the viewer in the action, even if there’s no real explanation to the beginning. The first shot is of a radio listening to a police band about some scary recent incident. The camera’s stationary until the protagonist picks it up and gives a bit of hasty exposition as he gets dressed. As you’ll come to find out, there’s a monster in the woods, and the sheriff’s raised a hunting party to go after it. You could say the exposition’s too convenient, but the actor’s sense of haste sells it, as well as the fact that he’s getting dressed as he delivers the monologue. One of the strengths of found footage is that action— or the impression of action— can sell a scene where it might look ridiculous in a traditional movie. It isn’t Kurosawa, but it holds your attention.
It’s downhill from there. The rest of the movie sees a hunting party convene at the police station, then attempt to hunt down whatever monster’s in the woods. They’re predictably picked off. If the opening shows the kind of hook found footage can have, the rest of the film shows its weaknesses. The scene at the police station is forced. The hero, camera-in-hand, arrives and pans around for a few painfully obvious establishing shots. Watching this suggests the necessity of a framing device, and also suggests why good found footage tends to have more thorough framing than some-idiot-bought-a-video-camera. I recently mentioned that I think Rec, Blair Witch, and Last Broadcast are good found footage movies. To pat myself on the back, I’d like to note that all three have convincing framing devices: respectively, tv news crew, callow student filmmakers, and a self-absorbed documentarian.
What follows is a to-the-woods as inevitable as the to-bed of a Shakespearean romance. The sheriff gives a terse we-happy-few to the assembled hunters, and the preacher offers a prayer. Only, it’s interrupted by what sounds like Fran Drescher with emphysema clearing her throat. The monster’s appeared, and the hunting party avers they’re ready for it. They wander around the woods for a few minutes, but you never get the same tension that you get from Blair Witch, or even from Friday the 13th. Why are teenage trysts such easy targets— and devices— for slasher films? Because the woods are scarier when there are less of you there. The makers of “The Hunt” have the cards stacked against them by filming an entire hunting party, but if you want to be scary, you need to have more than a camera following the backs of peoples’ heads for several minutes.
It would be scarier if he didn't look like Dave Thomas from Strange Brew.
Worth the time? Overall, I can’t recommend “The Hunt.” I admire the filmmaker and crew for trying, but the scares never materialize. This is a valiant effort, but the bulk of the film lacks the energy of its opening scene.
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